shedd aquarium

Chicago River ‘Wild Mile' Project Nears Fruition

The Shedd Aquarium and Urban Rivers are partnering up on the project

The Chicago River is getting closer to having a stretch of floating plants, wetlands, kayak piers and public walkways.

The Shedd Aquarium and environmental nonprofit Urban Rivers have partnered to create native plant gardens in the Chicago River as part of a Wild Mile project, the Chicago Tribune reported .

"We can bring the river back," said Andy Casper, director of freshwater research at Shedd Aquarium. "We just need to show people, convince people."

The 260-square-foot (24-square-meter) "island" that will launch in July will include swamp rose mallow, marsh marigold, and Dudley's rush. It will join the 1,500 square feet (139 square meters) that Urban Rivers installed last year. The floating modules are made from coconut husks that are rolled into tubes and secured with plastic mesh and stainless steel frames.

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The island will include turtle logs, a waterfowl box and an underwater camera to provide a view of the fish.

"You can think of it as mixed use," Casper said. "If you want to revitalize a neighborhood, you need to have offices, grocery stores, residential. Well, what was missing from this section of the river was a lot of this vegetation, and we're just putting that mosaic back into the river."

Project leaders said it will improve the canal's water quality, diversify the area and make it more user-friendly and attractive.

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"The other thing that this programming with Shedd is going to allow us to do is open this up to all of Chicago, not just the affluent, white neighborhood that this is in," said George Brigandi, the director of marketing at Urban Rivers. "We want all Chicagoans to benefit from this and to experience wildlife in one of the largest metropolises in the United States."

Urban Rivers has raised more than $100,000 for the Wild Mile project through grants, donations and a Kickstarter campaign.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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